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Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart
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In this Monday, March 28, 2016, file photo, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal speaks during a news conference in Atlanta to announce he has vetoed legislation allowing clergy to refuse performing gay marriage and protecting people who refuse to attend the ceremonies.
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Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart will be Catoosa County's first state court judge.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal called Goulart at 10 a.m. Thursday to tell him he got the job, edging out Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Chris Arnt and Public Defender David Dunn. Goulart said he is not sure when he will officially take the bench because he has to be sworn in first.

Arnt, Dunn and Goulart all interviewed Wednesday with Deal in Atlanta.

"I was a little sort of shocked, I guess, in a way," Goulart said. "I wasn't expecting to receive a call this morning. I guess I certainly wasn't expecting to receive a call from the governor himself."

The Georgia General Assembly created Catoosa County's state court during its session last year. The court could have launched as early as July 1 of this year, but the governor had not appointed the necessary positions. Deal still needs to pick a solicitor, and he will interview Ringgold attorney Shawn Bible and Assistant Public Defender Doug Woodruff on Monday.

The state court will host lower-level criminal cases and some civil cases. It is supposed to make all judicial proceedings in Catoosa County more quickly by lightening the loads of prosecutors and judges in superior court.

Goulart has been Fort Oglethorpe's city manager since 2005. He also has served as the city's attorney, and he was a Ringgold City Court judge for 20 years, as well as Catoosa County's Juvenile Court judge.

Goulart believes his previous experience as a judge was the deciding factor for the governor. Because the Catoosa County state court was supposed to begin July 1, there is already a logjam of cases.

"I could just get in there and sit on the bench as we speak and know exactly what to do," he said.

Added Catoosa County Manager Jim Walker: "We want to get busy. The sooner the better for us."

Both Arnt and Dunn said Thursday that they appreciated the opportunity to apply for the job, and that they think Goulart will be a good judge.

Goulart said he will temporarily work for free for Fort Oglethorpe once he becomes the judge. He wants to help the city council search for his replacement.

Mayor Earl Gray expects the city to advertise the new open position and interview candidates, as always. He isn't sure what Goulart's involvement will be.

"We certainly would value his opinion, if he would have time to sit in on the interviews," he said. "It would be helpful to us. We'd certainly welcome that."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

Updated at 11:30 p.m. with additional information.

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